We Jazz is a Helsinki-based festival, record label and creative collective with the subsidiary communication agency, Hei Hei Media. This year, the festival is celebrated for the sixth time in Helsinki and Tallinn from 2nd to 9th of December. Internationality is a significant part the organization’s strategy, as the audience of the festival is not only limited to Finland. The executive director, Katarina Uusitupa, notes that from the beginning, the nature of the festival has been both local and global. The festival is strongly tied up with the urban space of Helsinki but at the same the audience is seen as global.
According to Uusitupa, We Jazz has two annual focal points concerning internationality. The most important is the festival in December, where the team invites several international journalists to present the festivals’s offerings to international operators. The other one is Jazzahead fair in Bremen and the English issue of their We Jazz magazine, which they publish in time of the fair.
“The English issue of the magazine is an important part of our internationalization strategy. It has filled a certain void, since there has not been similar publication before. The magazine is a way to communicate to people about our operation and Finnish jazz but also about Helsinki and music in general. We are a multi-industry business and that often interests people because our content knowledge is different”, Uusitupa states.
The bigger strategic line of We Jazz is the endeavor to create an international collaboration network. The organization is mostly interested in the art field involving jazz, avantgarde, fine arts and research related to urban space. Also, the examination of the space on the terms of art is interesting in relation to the festival.
“Finding similar-minded people has always been interesting. In terms of art exchange and music export, the international collaboration network is extremely important, and it supports both our and other operators work greatly. Europe Jazz Network is a good example of how bands circle and how the interchange can be created”, Uusitupa notes.
In earlier years, We Jazz has cooperated with Berlin-based XJazz in connection to Scope festival. This year the We Jazz has a new international project as the festival expands to Tallinn for the first time. On the Finland’s Independence Day, 6 December, they hold a concert at the Sveta Baar in Tallinn. The company felt that Tallinn lacks an operator such as they self, as they consider We Jazz’s approach to performing art more examining and challenging than traditional jazz bars of the city. The new project continues next year, and they have already booked four more gigs to the spring.
According to Uusitupa, We Jazz has no given strategy related to the selection of their international cooperation target, but it is rather the sum of many coincidences. For example, the collaboration between Tallinn began after a fortuitous meeting at a concert. “It is more based on a feeling that the city in question has space for us and there are interesting people to work with. For example, we have always considered XJazz as kind of a sister festival and its creators like-minded people with the similar ideology as ours. That is why the cooperation in Berlin with the XJazz has always felt natural”, Uusitupa comments.
Uusitupa does not recall, that the founder of We Jazz, Matti Nives, has ever specified the company’s brand in black and white. She rather sees, that the values of the organization create a patchwork, which often appears as a brand. We Jazz’s values include a high-quality art, boldness, creativity and experiencing the new and presenting it.
“The examination of the urban space in relation to art is essentially connected to these values. Other values resonating with us are equality, inclusiveness, accessibility and being a participatory operator. How the process is seen and found, is the end result of all this. We also have a certain way to communicate, and often that is seen as the primary part of the brand.”
Uusitupa emphasizes that brand is an important part of internationalization. The strength of We Jazz is that the organization is recognizable; their model of creative collective and the multi-industrial company interest a large number of people. Uusitupa sums up the We Jazz brand to words high-quality, experimental, bold and neutral. We Jazz is not a management, so they do not represent certain bands or artists. However, their record label has a clear policy to choose publications that fit their brand. They must stand behind every single album and the album needs to feel right and look like We Jazz.
Uusitupa kuitenkin huomauttaa, että vaikka We Jazz ei edusta bändejä tai artisteja, on levymerkillä selkeä linja valikoida omaan brändiinsä sopivat julkaisut. Yrityksen täytyy seistä jokaisen levyn takana, joten levyn on tunnuttava omalta ja oltava We Jazzin näköinen.
We Jazz has participated in Jazzahead several times and they are also a frequent visitor at other professional events such as by:Larm, Music & Media and Tallinn Musi Week. Uusitupa herself and Nives are mainly the ones to represent We Jazz and attend the events: “Matti especially goes around the world. The representation of the company personifies greatly in We Jazz. I believe it happens easily in this business with a lot of small organizations and companies. At the events we are ourselves but of course we represent our organization at the same time.”
We Jazz sees the Jazzahead fair primarily as a place to meet people. Because the industry is small, it is seen important to be present at the events such as Jazzahead and telling people about one’s work and brand.
“When the network starts to be formed, Jazzahead is an important place to meet acquaintances and catch up, it is a socially important meeting place – not only globally but also between the Finnish operators. There we are separated from the daily life and we have a good opportunity to exchange thoughts and develop our working methods. It is possible to create networks just by meeting people and discussing with them.”
We Jazz 2018
Helsinki & Tallinn 2. – 9.12.
As new concept this year they have the secret gig on Tuesday 4 December, the Tallinn concert at Sveta Baar on 6 December and a Suvilahti day with four different venues on Saturday 8 December.
By: Sheri Toivomäki